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Attacks on Indian students hurt Aus-India ties: poll

Poll emphasises need for Rudd government to strengthen ties with India

india Updated: May 06, 2010 15:47 IST

An overwhelming 70 per cent of Australians believe that bilateral ties with India has been "damaged" following a spate of attacks on Indian students here and sought urgent action to repair the country's reputation.

Independent think-tank the Lowy Institute, which undertook a poll of 1001 adults, said the findings emphasise the need for the federal government to take Australia's bilateral relations with India more seriously. "Three-quarters of Australians said the relationship has been damaged and underlined the need for Canberra to take urgent action to repair country's reputation in India," Lowy Institute program director and India specialist Rory Medcalf said in a statement recently.

The poll showed that 28 per cent believed the relationship with India had been "damaged a lot" while another 46 per cent said it has been "damaged a little".

The study, which was undertaken in March, follows almost a year of media attention on the problems facing some Indian students in Australia, including vulnerability to criminal violence and the poor quality of some vocational courses.

"The fact is that 74 per cent of Australians perceive real diplomatic damage and underline the need for Canberra to sustain exceptional efforts to repair Australia's reputation in India," Medcalf said.

He said the causes of the problem are much more complex than the racism that some Indian media reports have alleged. But these poll findings emphasise the need for the Rudd government not to slacken in its efforts to put new life into links with one of our most important strategic and economic partners.

The statement noted that Canberra needs to clear the air, by releasing as soon as possible the findings of a criminological study into what actually happened, especially in Victoria, so that we can move on. "No doubt some of the violence had a racial edge, but much of it – I suspect most of it – did not. We need to clear the air," he said.

The study, he said has noted that the two sides needed to treat the bilateral relationship as a priority. More than 100 attacks have been reported against Indian students in Australia since June last year, including the fatal stabbing of 21-year-old Nitin Garg on January 2 this year.

The Ministry of External Affairs has issued an advisory to Indian students in Australia, advising them not to travel at night and travel in groups, among other precautions.

First Published: May 06, 2010 15:41 IST